Monday, July 03, 2017

Books read in July 2017

1. Stokesay Castle (English Heritage Guidebooks) by Henry Summerson

Excellent guide to a beautiful historic place. My one criticism is the dearth of detail on the adjacent church but it is not part of the English Heritage property. Though I am not in the habit purchasing the guide books, this property is so memorable the guide is a fitting souvenier.

2. Camino Island by John Grisham

I have read all Grisham's fiction except some of the youth market ones and this one is different from his previous work in several ways. First it is not a gripping page turner except near the end. It is not really a legal thriller in the court room drama sense. One reason I am a Grisham fan is that his Christian faith seemed to influence him in giving a less than explicit narration of sexual activity which did not loom large in the books. This has changed and not only  the portrayal of sex but its morality. But far more thought provoking are the moral questions raised by the ending. I do not want to write a spoiler but will say I am disturbed if society is now concerned more with material possessions and gain than in the punishment of criminality. For me this book does not end happily.

3. Universally Challenged: Quiz Contestants Say the Funniest Things by Wendy Roby

Sometimes one watches a quiz and marvels at the folly of ignorance of the competitors. I could better on thinks. This is a book of stupid answers. Some are laugh out loud funny. Most are sill. Sometimes one wonders as to the correct answer. It is a curate's egg of a book. Not a patch on '1066 and all that.'

4. International Presbyterian Church - Book of Church Order 5th edition 2017

If I did not give five stars to this book from our own church there would be something wrong with it or me. It is the handbook giving beliefs, procedures, structures of the IPC, the denomination founded by Francis Schaeffer in 1954. As such it is indispensable to office bearers but also informative fombers and for those enquiring about the church. There have been some alterations to the previous edition of 21015.. Exactly what they are requires some careful reading to discern them.

5. The Abolition of Britain: From Winston Churchill to Princess Diana by Peter Hitchens 

Published nine years ago so I would love to see a revised edition. Hitchens is a favourite, a man close to my generation and Christian heart. We can remember a different and in many ways a better more loved Britain. He starts by contrasting what someone present to observe Churchill's funeral as I was by the Aldwych in 1964, what they would have seen around our isle and how much had changed by the time of Diana's death. Even more had changed by the time I was outside St Paul's to see Thatchers cortege pass and the change has since then hasty downhill at pace. He surveys next how history is taught differently, English too. The church has lost her gospel. Hell is abolished. Television is all pervasive and influential. Marriage is devalued, the state becomes all powerful. Pornography and obscenity have been promoted, purity, chastity and fidelity dismissed. The contraceptive pill has altered sexual morality. Homosexuality has gone from peversion to promotion. The one topic he wisely does not include in the change is race and immigration for the change id about culture not ethnicity. Hitchens is a pessimist. He has cause to be. Fortunately we did not adopt a foreign currency, the euro and Brexit does give a little hope. But the root of the problem is seen to be no political butt moral . The politicians have merely given a legal medium that cultures these changes. The root cause is a rejection of Christian principle, the Christian gospel. Hitchens sees this but he is not  a preacher of the gospel, he is a journalist and author not an evangelist.  The only cure is the gospel, tackling the problem from inside out as well as going from bottom up.

6. What does the Bible really say about...? The Importance of Sundays - Iain D Campbell (Author)

This is an original approach to the observance of the fourth commandment, brief but biblical. It teaches the ordinary Christian why Sunday is special in the Christian tradition. But in the light of the passing of the author in 2017 one small correction is needed if this booklet is to be reprinted. "If we love him we will keep his commandments. (John 15:10). Christians sometimes disagree on what that means when it comes to the fourth commandment.They have no difficulty in obeying the other nine.' The last sentence would be more accurate if it read, 'They have no difficulty in understanding the meaning and application of the other nine.'  We all have difficulty obeying all ten of the commandments! Sin pervades all of life.

7. Help! I've Been Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis by Jo Johnson (Author)

A very helpful booklet for any Christian with MS, their family, friends and churches. The authors professionally qualifies in this subject for she is a Christian neuropsychologist.  First there is the story of one MS Christian. More examples would be helpful to illustrate what the author subsequently teaches; there are different ways that MS presents and develops. How to cope with diagnosis, living with MS, the question of why there is suffering and further helpful church leaders and patients are all dressed. But I have a couple of critical observations having known  well two men with MS, the most severer form, secondary progressive MS. Both died well before normal life expectancy. Neither presented symptoms of anxiety or depression when I new them. In fact the first, my uncle has a surprisingly euphoric disposition. Lastly,there inso mention of the use of drugs based on cannabis or the benefit some may find in (illegal) self-mediccation with this drug.

8. Through the British Museum with the Bible by Brian, Edwards, Clive, Anderson (2004) 

By a process of elimination, namely that the cover of my edition of 2004 is not pictured on Amazon, I deduce that my copy is the first ever edition. In reviewing it I will say that if you want to use an edition of this excellent guide in order to tour through the museum you had better purchase the latest edition for if the museum has altered the layout of its galleries since 2004 early editions maybe out of date as to museum layout if not content. The book does what it says on the cover and more. You are enabled to tour the galleries and understand their contents as they have relevance to the Bible story. In addition there are historical charts of various periods and comment as to the history of the archeology of various sites. A most informative and helpful book.

9. A Street Through Time: A 12,000-year Journey Along the Same Street by Anne Millard 

I saw this in a shop and thought it might be cheaper on Amazon. It was a bargain here and postage included I saved over £10 on this present for my grandchildren aged 6 and 10. I thought it a good way to teach real history, combining a knowledge of dates/periods with social history too. it is an excellent approach. My 10 year old grandaughter read it herself with enjoyment. I read to my six year old grandson. We did this over several days so we could really study each page and benefit from them. He enjoyed answering the questions, finding objects and activities. Changes through the centuries are well evidenced. The castle goes from a vital defence through a war ruin to present day tourist attraction as an ancient monument. A most excellent way of making history informed and enjoyable for all ages.

10. Travel with C S Lewis (Day One Travel Guides) by Ronald W Bresland  (Author)

I have read a number of Lewis biographies. This is a very concise yet comprehensive one in a series of travel guides giving a tour of the places associated with the subject. This one on Lewis is among the best in the series. I learned some facts not found in other biographies, for example Leis reaction to the snobbery of his fellow Oxford dons who detested the amateur theologian, Their attitude seems to me as much envy as an anti-christian stance, something like writers dislike of Jeffrey Archer whose success puts the efforts of his critics to shame. My one criticism is the author's seeming depiction of Lewis as having an evangelical and reformed theology. His Mere Christianity was orthodox and catholic. He was an Ulster Protestant yet his departure from evangelicalism was more theological in some points than his non-evangelical life style with pipe and beer. Where did his theology depart from evangelicalism? We are not informed. But this is a great brief biography and introduction to the man described as the most quoted Christian author of his time. It encourages me to read some of the Lewis books which I have yet to tackle.

11.  Life in Bible Times (Truth for All Time) by Timothy Cross (Author)

This is a book for the ordinary Christian who wants to be informed concerning the everyday life in Bible times for it was a world different from ours. It is not a detailed presentation for those with or taking formal theological studies. It is informative and then spiritual lessons are drawn form the aspects of life being considered. Again this is not something the trained teacher of the Bible will require for he should be able to make his own application without any unwarranted spiritualising.One positive I commend and that is the section on wine. It removes the false idea that wine was unfermented grape juice. Fermentation is a natural process and there is no evidence that it was artificially prevented in Bible times. God’s people drank alcohol but drunkenness was a sin.

12. Bradshaw's Handbook byGeorge Bradshaw

History for lovers of the railway and of Victorian Britain. You too can travel as a couch potato Portillo. Learn the ubiquity of the railways in 1863. Find the population and industries of the towns. See which hotels and buildings were there. A great resource and a pleasure to dip into. I bought it when browsing in a shop. I should have waited until I looked in Amazon and so saved money

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